Sights and Sites
Historic and Cultural
Northland and the Bay of Islands can claim many firsts in New Zealand history. The very first Polynesian travellers were believed to have made landfall here; the first extended contact between Pakeha (Europeans) and Maori was here; the first permanent European village was at Kororareka (now Russell); the first missionaries, protestant and catholic, set up in competition on either side of the bay; the country's first churches were in the Bay and the oldest remaining church, Christ Church, still stands in the centre of the village; New Zealand's first capital was briefly just near where the car ferry now lands at Okiato; our founding Treaty was famously signed at Waitangi; and the first of the battles between Maori and the European settlers, known as the New Zealand Wars, began here with the felling of the flagstaff by Hone Heke.
Sights in Russell
Christ Church. New Zealand's oldest standing church. One of only three still-standing buildings which survived the 1845 Battle of Kororareka on March 11th 1845. Look for the musket holes still in the walls. Cnr Church and Robertson Streets.
Pompallier Mission. The sole surviving building of the French Roman Catholic mission headquarters to the Western Pacific. It was built in 1841-42 by our first Roman Catholic bishop, Pompallier. Now restored to a fully working printery with Victorian garden. South end of the waterfront.
Russell Museum. One of New Zealand's great little museums, it's our whare taonga - treasure storehouse of Russll's shared history - and features a one-fifth scale model of Cooks ship Endeavour. On York St.
Haratu. The Kororareka Marae Society's maori art gallery and cultural centre, right on the waterfront. Showcasing local artists, carvers and weavers. You can also take a Hikoi Tahi walking tour, a one hour walk round Kororareka-Russell with maori stories and cultural interaction.
Te Maiki Hill (Flagstaff) This is where Hone Heke cut the flag staff down 4 times between 1840 and 1845. The views are spectacular. Access on foot from Wellington Street or by car from Flagstaff Road.
Oneroa/Long Beach for a picnic, stroll on the sand or a swim. Access from Long Beach Road.
Sites outside Russell
Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Site of the signing in 1840 of the Treaty between Maori and Pakeha, it's a special and beautiful place with large grounds, a lovely early mission house, a stunning Maori meeting house, and a good café in the bush. It's across the bay at Waitangi, about 2 kms from Paihia. Take the passenger ferry to Paihia and walk round the bay (20-30 mins) or take a cab.
There's also an evening performance inside the meeting house itself, in which local performers bring early New Zealand history to life with war dances and energetic weapons displays, plus beautiful polynesian songs and dances.
Te Waimate Methodist mission house at Waimate North
The Stone Store, Kemp House, Rewa's Village, Kororipo Pa at Kerikeri
Kawiti Glow Worm caves and Ruapekapeka Pa on Highway 1 south of Kawakawa